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The Men of Tohoku (1957)

Tôhoku no zunmu-tachi (original title)
The isolated village of Tohoku is surrounded by high mountains, and has a tradition that only the eldest sons may marry and inherit. The filthy, unshaven younger sons, called yakkos, work ... See full summary »


Kon Ichikawa


Shichirô Fukazawa (story), Kon Ichikawa


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Credited cast:
Hiroshi Akutagawa Hiroshi Akutagawa ... Risuke
Minoru Chiaki ... Tasuke
Kamatari Fujiwara ... Hisakichi
Jun Hamamura Jun Hamamura
Bokuzen Hidari
Shôichi Hirose
Hajime Izu Hajime Izu
Takuzô Kumagai Takuzô Kumagai ... Father of Twins (as Jirô Kumagai)
Eiko Miyoshi Eiko Miyoshi ... Old woman
Chieko Naniwa Chieko Naniwa ... Oei
Tadashi Okabe Tadashi Okabe
Sachio Sakai Sachio Sakai
Makoto Satô Makoto Satô
Ikio Sawamura Ikio Sawamura
Shirô Tsuchiya Shirô Tsuchiya


The isolated village of Tohoku is surrounded by high mountains, and has a tradition that only the eldest sons may marry and inherit. The filthy, unshaven younger sons, called yakkos, work the land and never have sex. To redress an ancestor's crime, the widow Oei has to take each yakko for a night. However she refuses to take Risuke, who has particularly vile breath. So Risuke's eldest brother Tasuke tells his wife Asa to take Risuke for a night, while an old blabbermouth suggests another alternative to Risuke. Written by Will Gilbert

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis









Release Date:

27 August 1957 (Japan) See more »

Also Known As:

Ludzie z Tohoku See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Toho Company See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »

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User Reviews

Great Piece of Comedic Morality Play
23 November 2001 | by Dog BreathSee all my reviews

Very enjoyable piece of cinema, filmed in stark black and white.

The story follows the lives a mountain-locked village, where only the eldest son of each family is allowed to shave, wear proper clothing, and most importantly marry and procreate. All other male children (called Yakkos) are resigned to a life of labour, working the fields, wearing rags, and abstaining from carnal desire. Daughters that cannot be married are sold off each year to a travelling merchant.

The film follows the life of the most wretched of these yakkos, Risuke. He has been cursed with the worst case of halitosis known to man, and everyone blanches from him when he speaks, ordering him to face away. Much of his conversation with people is while he's not facing them.

Tragedy befalls the husband of Triangle House as he is wracked with a painful sickness and dies, but not before explaining to his wife that his father was also stricken with the same illness, thus it must be a curse. He details how his father caught a yakko having relations with his wife and killed him. He claims that the sickness is the curse of the murdered yakko and he must be appeased before peace will ever come to his family. On his dying breath he asks his wife, Oei, to bed every yakko in the village, one at a time, for a single night after his death, and that will finally appease the curse.

The wife obeys him, and every yakko's life improves, except Risuke. Oei avoids bedding him, feeling that not even the murdered yakko would expect her to engage that level of punishment upon herself. As far as she knows the curse has been lifted, a wonderful butterfly acting as her sign.

But poor Risuke is plagued with feelings of doubt and self-esteem issues that begin to drive him mad. Finally an old woman tells him a secret, one that is kept from all yakko, lest they leave the village and put it to ruin: far over the mountains lies a village only of women, who are so desperate for men that they would accept even Risuke, so desperate are they that even the worst case of halitosis known to man would be no nevermind.

Risuke decides to set off over the mountains, even though no yakko has ever been known to make it. His desire for love and companionship and acceptance is that strong. It is here that the film takes an interesting visual turn.

Up until this point, the entire piece was either filmed outdoors on location or in quite realistic interior sets. But as Risuke sets off on his journey, the outdoor locations become a fantastical, far from realistic, set piece... painted highly stylised backdrops, fake snow upon fake rocks ... Ichikawa is suggesting strongly to us the fantastical nature of his trip, showing us that the story of a village of women is pure fantasy, but that Risuke's search and desire for acceptance is the more important journey. The journey is the reward, not the destination.

A great film. Highly recommended.

I was also surprised and pleased to see the old grandmother from Ozu's "Good Morning" show up here as the old woman that tells Risuke about the village of women.

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